Celtics

Bucks have a new weapon for Round 3 vs. Celtics

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Bucks have a new weapon for Round 3 vs. Celtics

BOSTON – One of the many things that makes Giannis Antetokounmpo such a special talent, is how he can grab a rebound and initiate a fast break all by his lonesome. 

It was easy for the Milwaukee Bucks to defer to him, because there was no one on their roster whose talents thrived in transition as much as the Greek Freak’s … until Eric Bledsoe arrived via trade. 

And with Bledsoe in the fold, Milwaukee has become a much tougher team to defend because when it comes to initiating the offense, you really have no idea whether it’ll be Antetokounmpo or Bledsoe.

“Whoever gets the rebound, brings it up,” Bledsoe said “Coach (Jason) Kidd draws up plays in time-outs. Who handle it, who doesn’t.”

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The addition of Bledsoe has indeed made the Bucks a deeper, more athletic and versatile team in the backcourt. But his arrival has also meant Malcolm Brogdon, the league’s Rookie of the Year last season, returning to coming off the bench. 

Bledsoe said there hasn’t been any kind of sit-down conversation between him and Brogdon. 

“At the same time, I’m not trying to take his spot or show, “I’m better,” Bledsoe said. “It’s a team thing. We need him as much as everybody needs each other. He’s one of the biggest pieces to this thing. What he brings to the game, I can’t bring. He comes off the bench, he plays … some of these games we’ve won, he’s played great in. So we definitely need him.”

Bucks head coach Jason Kidd echoed similar sentiments.

“Malcolm came off the bench for us last year at some parts of the season,” Kidd said. “Just understanding that he’s a true pro. Finishing games is what it’s all about, understanding your best five are on the floor at the end. And so, understanding he’s going to be on the floor a lot of times at the end of ball games. The only thing that’s changed is he doesn’t hear his name announced at the beginning of games.”

Added Bledsoe: “It’s all about one goal and that’s winning a championship. It’s not about, ‘oh he took my spot’ or ‘he’s better than me’ or ‘how much he get paid, how much I get paid.’ It’s about one thing and that’s winning; winning solves everything.”

Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

After beginning his career with the Los Angeles Clippers and moving on to the Phoenix Suns, Eric Bledsoe might need to brush up on his winter wardrobe, right? 

Not exactly. 

 “I had plenty of (winter coats),” Bledsoe said. “But I could never use them in Phoenix. Now I can put them to use. I had a lot of dust on them so I can blow the dust off them now.”

 

AWESOME AL HORFORD

Some of the best work offensively we’ve seen from Al Horford this season has come against the Milwaukee Bucks. This season, he’s averaging 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. The 20.0 points are Horford’s highest average this season against a team the Celtics have played more than once. 

 

ARON BAYNES 

He may be in and out of the starting lineup, but Baynes continues to be a steady, impactful force when he’s on the floor for the Celtics. His defensive rating of 91.2 is tops among all players in the league while limiting opponents to shooting just 43 percent from the field against him. 

 

BUCKS FIRE AWAY

Milwaukee gets a lot of praise for its roster that’s filled with long-armed scorers. But what’s often overlooked is the Bucks shooting this season. Milwaukee comes into tonight’s game shooting 48.0 percent from the field which ranks third in the NBA this season. 

 

REBOUNDING 

The Celtics have had a rough go of it late when it comes to rebounding. But the Bucks just may be the elixir they need to cure whatever has gone wrong with them on the boards. Milwaukee has a rebounding percentage of 47.2 which ranks 29th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA this season. Meanwhile, the Celtics have shown some slippage of late when it comes to rebounding, but they still respectable rebounding percentage of .513 which ranks ninth in the NBA.

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New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

Marcus Smart is right where he wants to be, a member of the Celtics.

But Smart, 24, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal on Thursday, readily admits that there was a time not that long ago when he wasn’t sure about his future in Boston when negotiations didn't go nearly as smooth as he would have liked.

“At one moment, I didn’t really know what to think,” Smart said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “My main focus has been on my mom and my family.”

His mother Camellia Smart was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

“When you go through adversity with something like this in your family, it puts things in perspective and everything else becomes kind of a blur to you,” Smart said.

One thing that is clear has been his Smart's impact on the Celtics.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been among the league’s top on-the-ball defenders for years, showcasing a level of defensive versatility that stands out.

Boston allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions when Smart was on the floor, which ranked among the league's leaders among guards who played 41 or more games.

And while he is often criticized for his shooting struggles (a career 36-percent shooter from the field, 29.3 percent from 3-point range), Smart still averaged a respectable 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last season primarily as Boston’s first guard off the bench.

Despite a solid season, the free agent marketplace was not kind one to him.

One of the main reasons for that? Smart was a restricted free agent, which meant the Celtics would have the right to match any offer sheet he signed.

Smart was also hurt by the fact that there were fewer teams with the kind of financial flexibility to put forth an offer sheet that would make the Celtics strongly consider letting him walk.

But even before Smart hit free agency, Danny Ainge and the entire Celtics organization made it absolutely crystal clear that they wanted him back.

And as the free agency period dragged on, the Celtics - at least in their words - never hedged from that position.

In the end, those words were put into action. 

"Keeping Marcus in a Celtics uniform was a top priority, said Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations. "His intensity is unmatched, and the level of toughness that he brings to the team throughout the course of the entire season is second to none."

Smart acknowledged that the process became a bit frustrating at times.

“I didn’t know where I was going to end up at,” Smart said.

And while that uncertainty was difficult to deal with, Smart actually looks back upon the experience and describes it as “a fun thing.”

“As frustrating as it is,” Smart added, “not many people in the world can say that they’re in talks to play for an NBA team, to make a dream become a reality. Being able to do things they never imagined they would be able to do. This whole time, even with everything going on, me not knowing where I could end up, it was still fun, exciting for me.”

And those fun, exciting times will continue for the longest-tenured member of the Celtics.

“Boston loves me, I love Boston. Boston wants me to be here, I want to be here,” Smart said. “I am here so, we made it work.”

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

1:32 - Marcus Smart is back! Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta discuss the 4-year, $52 million deal the guard signed with the Celtics on Thursday and debate whether or not he’s worth the money.

7:36 - According to Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal, the issues between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady haven’t been resolved, but then we have Danny Amendola on Barstool’s “Comeback Szn Podcast” disputing this. Phil Perry, Tom Giles and Michael Holley try to make some sense of it all.

12:49 - After J.D. Martinez said that this Red Sox team is like a family, it has Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta wondering if the club has an identity and what that might be.

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